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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2261

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - Firstly let me reply to the allegations put forward by Senator Little. Senator Little, exactly one week ago on 2 1 November, asked me a question without notice. The question was addressed to me in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. I, in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, having a question without notice directed to me did not immediately know the answer. I then asked the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper. That he did last Wednesday, a week ago today. Even though the honourable senator might be critical of the type of answer that has been supplied by my colleague in another place, certainly he cannot be critical of the time taken to answer the question.

The honourable senator's question was in 2 parts. The first part asked:

Does the Minister's statement, which appeared on page 3219 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 13 November 1973, that three out of four families, including those in which there is a working wife, would find the Government's proposed national health scheme cheaper than at present, take into account the extra taxation to be paid if the proposed rate of 1.35 percent -

I repeat 'if the proposed rate of 1.35 per cent'- is itself not deductible from personal income.

For a start it is a hypothetical question. The second part of the question is:

Will the Minister table, for the information of Senators, the documents upon which his statement was based and the statistical information supplied to him by his advisers that prompted the conclusions referred to above.

Today, on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), I supplied an answer to the honourable senator's questions in similar terms to an answer given by my colleague in response to a question asked by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) on 22 November, which is the day after Senator Little placed this question on the notice paper.

All I can say is that frankly I do not think Senator Little has understood the gravamen of the case put to the Parliament in a document, namely 'The Health Insurance Planning Committee Report' of April 1973, and again in a White Paper tabled on 7 November 1973, which set out what the Government has in mind. Senator Little cited a number of figures, which he maintains are assertions, to claim that my colleague's statement that three out of four families will be better off under the Government's proposals is incorrect. One thing that I think will probably be accepted by most people is that what Senator Little has set out to do is to supply his own answer to the question in his own way.

Senator Little - Far from it. I gave you 2 alternatives as to what the answer could be. I would still like to get an answer.

Senator DOUGLASMcCLELLANDSenator Little cited some figures which showed his ignorance of the situation as set out in the White Paper. If the honourable senator turns to pages 64 and 65 of the White Paper he will see in paragraph 7.2 that the rate for the 1974-75 financial year will be 1.35 per cent of individual taxable income. That is after all deductions have been taken into account by the taxpayer- educational expenses, dependants' allowance, water rates, council rates, insurance -

Senator McAuliffe - Gifts to institutions.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Gifts to charitable institutions and what have you.

Senator Little - What about payments to hospital benefits funds?

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Look, you had your go for about half an hour.

Senator Little - I received a lot of interjections, too, but I did not complain.

The PRESIDENT - Order! The Minister will address the Chair.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am giving the honourable senator an answer to his question. After all those deductions are taken into account and deducted from the worker's gross income he then pays 1.35 per cent of individual taxable income for health insurance purposes. My friends opposite cited an example of a husband earning $5,000 and the spouse earning, I think he said, $60 a week or an annual sum of $3,000. If the honourable senator turns to page 65 of the White Paper he will see in paragraph 7.4 that the application of the formula to the current minimum weekly wage of $60.10 would result in an exemption limit. So under those circumstances the wife would not be expected to pay anything at all.

We have heard expressions from Senator Little that my colleague the Minister for Social

Security must be an enormously arrogant man. Senator Greenwood said by way of interjection that there is a calculated evasion. All I suggest to honourable senators opposite who are in any doubt about the financial estimates and financial arrangements is that they should refer to pages 67 and onwards of the report of the Health Insurance Planning Committee to the Minister for Social Security of April 1973.I suggest in addition that the honourable senator refer to pages 7, 64, 65, 71 and 72 of the Australian Health Insurance Program as tabled by me in this chamber on 7 November on behalf of my colleague. Additionally, I would suggest to the honourable senator that he refer to the paper referred to by my colleague in the answer that I supplied today on his behalf, namely, a paper prepared by the Bureau of Census and Statistics entitled ' Income Distribution 1 968-69 ', a copy of which I have here and which I will provide to the honourable senator. If, after all those things, he is in any doubt I suggest that the honourable senator look at the Minister's second reading speech, which will probably be made tomorrow night, on the introduction of the Health Insurance Bill which will be of great benefit to the Australian people when enacted by this Parliament.

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